Kentse Mpolokeng

Junior lecturer, University of Cape Town

At just 26, Kentse Mpolokeng is on the fast track to becoming one of South Africa’s leading academics. She is the first black female lecturer in the human biology department in the faculty of health sciences at the University of Cape Town (UCT).

With the passion that she has for her work, one would be surprised to learn that this Bethlehem-born academic initially wanted to study medicine — but couldn’t because of her mathematics matric results.

She then decided to instead enrol for a BSc in human biology at the University of the Free State and to her surprise, excelled in her studies.

“I was in love with it. I enjoyed learning about the human body so much that I started spending extra time in the lab everyday exploring more and more things,” she recalls.

And her hard work paid off. During her studies, she was approached by her lecturers to work in the department on a part-time basis. After finishing her degree, she applied for an honours in anatomy. While still working part time at the university, she applied for a officer in human anatomy position at the University of the Western Cape in 2014.

In 2015, she was accepted into UCT for the new generation of academics (nGAP) programme. This was the first implementation phase of the programme, and Mpolokeng was in a group with five other people in the university.

In January 2016, she started working officially at UCT and will be graduating cum laude for her master’s in medical science in June. Her research focuses on the prevalence of anatomical variations in the intraorbital part of the ophthalmic artery and its branches in cadavers. She is lecturing and pursuing her PhD at UCT.

— Slindile Nyathikazi

Twitter: @KentseMpolokeng